SMART Fitness

Coaching people to EAT SMARTER and MOVE SMARTER so they can develop the habits necessary to achieve their HEALTH and FITNESS goals and keep them for LIFE



With 2015 less than a month away, I thought I would address the subject of goal setting. You’ve probably heard of the acronym S.M.A.R.T. as it applies to setting your goals. I’ve tweaked it a little to add a few aspects that will pertain more to your health and fitness goals.

  • “S” is for SERIOUS:  Bottom Line: If you don’t take your goal seriously you’ll never reach it. Commitment is one of the keys to success in anything we hope to accomplish. And if you are serious you will write it down and keep it in front of you regularly.
  • “M” is for MEASURABLE:  What result are you looking for? A smaller dress or pant size, a lower body fat %, a sub-27 min 5K time? All of these are measurable. Be as specific as possible. For example, my goal for 2015 is to get back into my size 32 pants (I’m a 33 now.). I purposely left out body weight as a goal for a reason. Body weight is one of several ways to measure your progress, but it shouldn’t be the only way. More about that in a future post.
  • “A” is for ACCOUNTABILITY:  Accountability can be several things:
    1. Post your specific goal on social media for all to see.
    2. Better yet, invite someone to join you on your adventure to a better, healthier you.
    3. Use a mobile app (like Nike Plus or RunKeeper) that tracks your activity and sends it to someone or automatically posts it on social media is another good way.

Use whatever works to keep you motivated towards your goal. And here’s the most important aspect of accountability: you must give permission to give you a hard time if you aren’t sticking to your success plan.

  • “R” is for REALISTIC:  If you’re 50 years old and your goal is to fit into your old high school jeans, that’s probably not a realistic goal. However, losing a few inches off of your waist or hips is realistic. Also, be realistic about your expectations. It took years to put all of that extra fat on your body; it’s not going to come off in two weeks. Be committed and be patient. DON’T GIVE UP!!
  • “T” is for TIME BASED:  Any goal should have a end date to hit. But again, make it realistic. We’ll talk later about how to pick that elusive end date. For most health/fitness related goals 3-6 months is a minimum.
  • “E” is for EVALUATE:  For your goal to be measurable, you’ll need a starting point (measurements, weight, before pic, and possibly % bodyfat,  etc.) that you can periodically check against to see how you’re progressing. I’m not saying you have to record every calorie and every rep, but the easiest way to determine if you are moving in the right direction is to record at least some data points related to your goal. And if you aren’t where you want to be, maybe it’s time to…
  • “R” is for REVISE:  Sometimes life throws us curve balls. Maybe it’s the holiday season with all of the extra food, desserts, etc. Or maybe the job got in the way, or maybe we don’t have quite as much time for the gym as we originally thought. Whatever the reason, make the necessary changes to your plan and keep going.

This should give you what you need to set your goals. All you need now is a plan to reach it.

If you have any questions or thoughts please use the comment section below.


11 Ridiculously Simple Tips to Improve Your Health

Sometimes we make things way too complicated when it comes to our health. Here are 11 Really Simple Things you can do TODAY to improve your health…

  1. STOP drinking soft drinks! This includes diet soft drinks too. Just STOP. You know it’s bad for you. If not, Google it.
  2. Eat more vegetables. Nothing new here, but choose wisely. Pick a green veggie like broccoli, spinach, or kale. Eat as much as you want.
  3. Add good fats to your diet with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). Sprinkle it on your veggies.
  4. Drink more water. Since you have given up soft drinks, this is the logical replacement. I like lime in mine.
  5. Eat more protein. Red meat is NOT bad for you like we were told several decades ago. Add some to your diet. Add some fish too.
  6. Stop sitting so much. If you sit at a desk for your job, set an alarm to walk around every 30-60 minutes. Park farther away from Walmart.
  7. Go to bed at the same time every night, and get up at the same time every morning. 7 days a week. Consistency is the key to pretty much everything.
  8. Pick a type of exercise you enjoy. If you don’t you’ll never stick to it.
  9. Exercise with a friend if possible. Accountability helps with that whole consistency thing. If we know someone else is counting on us, it’s harder to blow it off.
  10. Eat breakfast. But beware of the sugar-filled cereals/yogurts/donuts/juices/etc. Eggs are one of the best sources of protein money can buy, and they are also NOT bad for you as we were once told. Google it.
  11. Stop looking at food as just something you put in your gut. It is fuel for your body, and your body is an amazing machine. Treat it as such and you will reap the benefits.

Continue reading “11 Ridiculously Simple Tips to Improve Your Health”

3 Ways Your Cardio is Making You Fatter

I have been planning to do a post on the myths we believe about cardio, specifically LSD (long slow distance) running, and why it is detrimental to the body. And then I found this excellent article by Ryan Faehnle. Check out his blog at The Fat Loss Solution. Continue reading “3 Ways Your Cardio is Making You Fatter”

How I Became a Morning Person

Up until about 9 years ago, I hated mornings. Actually, it wasn’t mornings I hated; it was getting out of bed in the mornings. I would stay in bed until the last possible second (plus a few more), sprint to the bathroom for a shower, shave if I had the seconds to spare (or my stubble was so bad I had no choice), get dressed, and maybe grab something unhealthy to eat on my way out the door. As you can imagine, I was almost always late. And being late is not a very good way to impress your boss, customers, or whomever you are supposed to be meeting with.

Sunrise at Myrtle Beach 2012 taken with my iPhone.

There were rare occasions when I actually did get up early enough to not have to rush around like a crazy person. And those days were always so much less stressful, and WAY more productive.

Finally, I decided enough is enough. If I am ever going to be successful in life, I need to start by changing how my day starts off. Here is what I came up with:

  • WANT IT – Every successful person I have ever met or read about is a morning person. They get up long before the sun rises to do things that would improve some aspect of their life. And they were NEVER late for anything! Just like any habit you are trying to develop, you have to really want it. By the way, those bad habits in your life require the same thing–you gotta want to quit!
  • MOTIVATION Okay, you’ve decided you want to develop the habit of getting up early. Why? For me it started out as a way to spend time with God through prayer and Bible reading. But as I started backing up my wake up time, I found I had time to do other things, like working out, writing a blog, and working on my novel. I’m one of those people who needs a goal to motivate me to make a significant change. Maybe you are too. Pick a dream or goal, and work on it during those extra minutes or hours in the early morning.
  • START IT – Pick a good time to wake up. This is important because if you go too early to start off, you are more likely to quit. I began with getting up at 6:00 am. This was a full hour earlier than I used to get up, but not so obnoxiously early that I would give up. If you can get done what you want in that amount of time then stay there. I wanted to do more so I gradually moved it back to 5:30 for a couple of years, and this past year I started getting up at 5:05 am (I actually “sleep in” until 5:30 on weekends!).
  • GET YOUR SLEEP – There is no way I was going to be able to get up early if I didn’t also go to bed earlier. Sleep is critical for the health of the body, and if we don’t get 6-8 hours of sleep every night, bad things will happen. This is key to the consistency part below. TURN OFF THE TV, OR FACEBOOK, or whatever is keeping you from going to sleep!!
  • BE CONSISTENT – Consistency is the key with any habit. It’s not really a habit if it’s not consistent, right? That means weekends too! I mentioned above that I allow myself an extra 25 minutes sleep on the weekends. This works for me and may work for you, but I wouldn’t go much more than that. Just like “location, location, location” is the most important thing in real estate, “consistency, consistency, consistency” is the most important thing in developing a new habit.
  • GET HELP – If you are married or have a roommate, let them know of the changes you are making. Get them to remind you to go to bed earlier. In other words, give them permission to give you a hard time if they catch you staying up late on the computer or watching TV. If they are early risers, ask them to help make sure you are up until you get your body used to it. My good friend Chad recently asked me to call him when I woke up every morning for a week to help him develop this habit. I was happy and honored to do it.
  • PREPARATION – Before you go to bed make sure you are set up for success. If you have a coffee maker that has an auto-on feature, set it to be ready BEFORE you come down so little time is wasted getting that caffeine in your body. If you plan to use this time for a workout, lay out your clothes, shoes, GPS, etc. so you can put it on right away. If you plan to read/study your Bible, have all of those materials staged and ready to go. Whatever it is, plan for it. And try NOT to hit the snooze button. Trust me when I tell you–it only makes it harder to get out of bed.

Hope this helps someone out there with their goal of becoming a morning person or early riser. If so, or if you have any questions or comments, please let me know using the comments section below.

What motivates you to get up early in the morning?

The Enthusiasm of a Child

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, our family goes to the same little place every year to get a “real, live” Christmas tree. We bring it home and decorate it that evening. Our kids are 6 and 8 this year so my wife and I are trying to make sure they understand the true meaning of Christmas. This is no easy task with the commercialism they see everywhere, especially all of the Christmas specials on TV.

I mentioned wanting to read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke to them sometime this season. The next morning Sarah, my six year old comes downstairs carrying my bible ready to read. We started in Luke chapter 1. I would read a paragraph, and then she would read one. In first grade she is learning about punctuation: periods, commas, quotation marks, and exclamation points. She is supposed to read it the way it would really sound.

She was reading when we got to verse 28:

Gabriel appeared to her [Mary] and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28).

She reads this verse with so much enthusiasm it kind of takes me by surprise. She didn’t stop reading until we got to verse 56! She was so excited to hear how Mary found out she was going to be the mother of Jesus! I’ve read or heard this story so many times I had forgotten how amazing it is. Jesus tells us in Mark 10: “I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:15 NLT)

I needed to be reminded that the real magic of Christmas is that God sent his son to earth through an innocent young girl to be born in a stable, live among regular people, die for our sins, and then rise again to rule the entire universe! Now that’s something to be excited about!!


Illogical Fear

Before this week if you had asked me if I was claustrophobic (defined as a fear of enclosed spaces), I would have said: “Of course not, I was on submarines!” As a matter of fact, that is exactly what I said to the technician seconds before they rolled me into this very small tube known as an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machine.

They had me lay down and place my left shoulder in this cup-like device on the table. Then they wrapped my torso like a mummy, not tight but snug so I wouldn’t be tempted to move. They then asked me what kind of music I wanted to listen to, and for some reason I blurted out “classical” (on retrospect I should have asked for something with words so I would have something to distract me). The last thing they did was hand me this little bulb and said: “squeeze this if there is a problem”. He didn’t call it a “panic button”, but that is exactly what it was. Then the table I was laying on started moving into the tube. For some unknown reason my heart and breathing started to speed up. Within seconds of being in there I wanted to push the “panic button”. Even as I type this, I can feel a bit of that in my stomach. My first thought was how embarrassed I would feel if I pushed this button for them to come get me out. I also thought that if I couldn’t go through with it how would the Doctor know what was wrong with my shoulder.

I immediately started praying for help. I said as much of the 23rd Psalm as I could remember. I thought of my wife and children. Baseball. Everything I could think of that would take my mind off of the fact that I was in a tube only slightly larger than me with this extremely loud noise screaming at me.

And I had to be inside for 30 minutes.

For the first 10-12 minutes I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff with a strong breeze blowing against my back trying to force me over the edge.

…and it was completely ILLOGICAL. There was absolutely no reason for me to be afraid. It was all in my head. I knew this, but it was taking entirely too long to convince myself of this fact.

Slowly but surely I started to settle down a little. The tech came over my headphones, asked me if I was alright, and to let me know we were at the halfway point. I vaguely remember saying “I’m fine.”

As I was getting dressed afterward, I was thinking how strange it was to feel fear or anxiety when there was no danger or reason to be afraid. Right then it hit me how many people feel fear and anxiety every day without any real or logical reason to be afraid. Fear of all sorts of things:

  • screwing up (aka failure)…
  • what will she/he/they think of me…
  • what if I’m wrong…
  • what if I’m right…
  • and many many others.

And when asked by someone if they are alright, the canned response is just like mine: “I’m fine.”

The Bible says “Fear not” or the equivalent a few hundred times. Here is the one spoken by Jesus in Matthew chapter 10 that seems most appropriate:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31(NIV)

I think most of us (maybe all of us) need to be reminded every single day that we have no reason to be afraid….

….because we are each loved, without condition, by our heavenly Father, and He will see to our every need.

Has anyone else experienced a fear or anxiety that you knew was completely illogical? How did you respond? How long did it take to recover?


In the news recently four young men have filed lawsuits accusing an Atlanta area pastor, Bishop Eddie Long of sexual misconduct. You can Google it, or read the Atlanta Journal Constitution article here. I was listening to CNN Radio, and they went on to describe his church, which they called a “mega-church,” his style of preaching, and his lifestyle. According to this report, Bishop Long is a proponent of the “prosperity gospel”. Wikipedia lists him and many others in this link as a prosperity preacher. And it appears that he lives the prosperity lifestyle: a $1.4 million dollar home, a $350,000 Bentley, and a $1 million dollar annual salary according to this article in the AJC.

Right around the time I first heard about this I happened to be reading in 2 Peter chapter 2 about False Teachers. In the first three verses Peter says this:

But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them. In this way, they will bring sudden destruction on themselves. Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money. But God condemned them long ago, and their destruction will not be delayed. 2 Peter 2:1-3 (NLT)

Now I’m not saying that Bishop Long is guilty. That is for the court to decide and ultimately between him and God. What hit me while reading this chapter is the unique connection between “NEED” and “WANT”. When a preacher decides his desire (WANT) for wealth and power are more important than his responsibility (NEED) to preach the truth, then he will justify this WANT to himself first by whatever means possible, then begin preaching it to his congregation. But it is our responsibility to recognize these false teachers by their teaching. The Bible is full of these warnings (Acts 20; Galatians 3 & 4; 1 Timothy 1, 4, 6; Jude 1). Jesus said this in Matthew chapter 7:

Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” Matthew 7:15-20 (NLT)

I must admit that I used to wonder why so much was written about this subject of false teachers and false doctrine. I was under the naive impression that there must be some sort of checks and balances in place in the church that would prevent this type of thing from happening. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

But how do we know if we are hearing false teaching? First of all, read through all of the references above (and there are others) to hear from Jesus, Paul, Peter, Jude, etc. on how to recognize it. But there is a another way that is simple…but not easy. If you go to church week after week and hear only those things you WANT to hear and nothing you NEED to hear, odds are you are under the influence of a false teacher. And I’m pretty sure if your pastor drives a Bentley, that’s a pretty strong sign as well.

Final point: Discerning between our NEED’s and WANT’s is something that can be applied to virtually every aspect of our lives, not just who we choose as our spiritual guides. The starting point is the Word of God. To truly know what we need, we must first believe He is who He says He is and go from there. I wish I could say I am able to do this 100% of the time, but that would be a “false” statement. But thank God I am a work-in-progress, and most days, moving in the right direction.

Do you know anyone who matches the biblical description of a false teacher/prophet? How did you handle it? How do you discern between false doctrine and biblical doctrine?

Hummingbird lost

Yesterday evening I walked out into our garage to find a hummingbird had flown in and was buzzing around the ceiling. At first I didn’t think anything of it. I called the kids out so they could see her (for some reason I felt like it was a she–not sure why). The kids thought she was really cool. I pointed out the differences in a hummingbird and other birds they had seen. It was a pretty nice teaching moment. Lori and Sarah had to run an errand so that took care of removing one car. I pulled my car out thinking that would allow her more room to fly out. Noah and I played in the front yard for a little while then went and checked on her–still in there.

I got the broom and tried to carefully guide her out, but she just kept flying right up by the ceiling and around the lights. It was starting to get a little darker outside so I turned all the lights off in the garage hoping she would see the natural light coming out of both open garage doors. Still she wouldn’t leave. She would fly for a while then land on a mounting bracket for the garage door opener. We could tell she was tired and scared, but nothing we did could make her find her way out. We decided to just hope for the best and went inside.

Right before bed I went to shut the garage doors for the night. Before I did I looked for the hummingbird. At first I didn’t see her and thought maybe she found her way out, but then I saw her perched on a bracket right up by the ceiling. She didn’t look very good. Her wings were kind of hanging loose, and I was really worried that she was dead or very close. I decided to try one last idea. I quietly got the ladder and placed it carefully on the wall closest to her. I slowly climbed up, and very carefully reached out my hand to hold her, thinking at any minute she would fly away, or worse, she would fall into my hands dead. Neither happened. I wrapped my fingers carefully around her tiny little body, and after about a second, felt her wake up and move. As quickly and carefully as I could, I climbed down the ladder and walked outside to the front yard. I thought I would put her on the ground just in case she was disoriented, but as soon as I opened my hand she flew over and landed on the tree in our front yard. I almost cheered I was so happy she was okay.

As I was thinking about this today, it came to me what a great analogy this is for us. Sometimes, through inattention, distraction, or more likely some foolish decision, we find ourselves in a scary, dark, and strange place. We try our best to find our way out, but things keep getting in our way or distracting us. After a while we grow weary, and we just want to stop and rest and maybe forget that we shouldn’t be here, but soon we realize that doesn’t help at all. Every so often we think we feel God trying to guide us out, but we’re so tired that we start doubting that He would bother with us after all this time in a place we know we shouldn’t be.

But when it finally gets darkest…

And we are at our absolute lowest…

He reaches down, wraps His wonderful hands around us, and takes us out of the dark and scary place and sets us free.


We make decisions of all kinds every single day. Simple decisions like:

  • What time should I wake up tomorrow?
  • What do I “need” to do today?
  • What do I “want” to do today?
  • What should I eat?

Some of the more complex decisions are:

  • Where should I go to college?
  • What do I want to be when I grow up?
  • Should I marry him/her?
  • Should I take this job or that job?

From time to time we must make decisions we wish we didn’t have to make. These are the “tough” decisions between that which is good and that which is best. “Best” could also be defined as “that which is most wise”. Andy Stanley gives excellent guidance on making tough decisions in his book titled The Best Question Ever: “In light of your past experience, current circumstances, and future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing for you to do? [And] what do the wise people around you consider the wisest course of action for you to take?”

Unfortunately, there are times when these decisions will have a negative impact on people you really care about. I recently had to make a tough decision like this, and it sucks. Sometimes discerning God’s will for your life can be….tough.

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